Create Flexible Tables in Microsoft Access

Naming of the fields

The name of a field is its identity, so it should give a reasonable idea about the field’s function and data type. Arbitrary and inept name fields make your database pointless and confusing. Microsoft access database allows up to 64 characters for a field name which can contain letters, numbers, and spaces. However, good practice is to not include spaces in the field name as this can cause issues later on for more advanced functionality especially when working with VBA and SQL codes.

The use of field properties

Microsoft access database provides you with the option to assign properties to the fields such as format, caption, description, validation rule, and validation text (to name a few). Each property will improve in some cases, performance as well as change the look and feel of data values. This is the first level of changes that can be applied and act as defaults when working with related objects used later on in your design process with the likes of queries, forms and reports.

Data type effort

It is suggested to use only text-based data type (as the default) and not necessarily number-based regardless of whether it’s for numeric data storing. It preserves a bit more of memory and is more advantageous with overall performance. Only consider non-text based values if there is a real need for it namely, to calculate values elsewhere in the database.

The use of field size

Selecting a suitable field size and data type makes the table adaptable and leaves little room or space for incorrect values. Ideally pick the smallest field size and data type as it helps in the keeping your tables optimised and perform better. Note that only ‘Text’ and ‘Number’ data types can have their fields sizes adjusted and that all other data types are fixed which can be a waste of memory.

Enhance performance through indexing

Indexes sort and prioritise the data sensibly according to its data type and if it is applied well, then it can significantly enhance the overall performance. developers should not just set multiple indexes because can hamper the data-processing in general. Users still need to know that a ‘Primary Key’ index will automatically prioritise the data without having to manually work on it and that most of the tables in your Microsoft access database should use the ‘Primary Key’.

AutoNumber restrictions

If you want to apply a unique number (or counter value) for the records in your database tables, you should use the ‘AutoNumber’ field and it characteristic can (and assumed to be a default) function as a ‘Primary Key’. It works as a surrogate key and a table can have just one ‘AutoNumber’ field. Even though it begins with the value ‘1’ by default, users can edit the value as well before it is used in anger.

The use of analysis tools

To improve the design of your tables, you can use the ‘Table Analyzer’ wizard tool and the ‘Performance Analyzer’ tool. The ‘Table Analyzer’ assists in examining the table(s) and recommends a number of potential changes which you can decide to accept and apply. While ‘Performance Analyzer’ evaluates the whole database and gives you suggestions for enhancing the overall design.

Table properties

Much the same as fields, tables also have properties to describe their purpose. You can get to the table properties by opening the table in Design view. There you have the choice of properties under the View menu. There are properties such as Order By and Subdatasheet Name which indicates the order of sorting in Microsoft access database. For the most part, sorting is executed according to the ‘Primary Key’ although you can change according to your preferences. You can also disable the sub-datasheet name property by setting it to ‘None’.